14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 February 2021– The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) tried to reassure the film industry this week, stating that the new bans on self-employment do not affect them. The artists had expressed their complaints and doubts on the social networks, but the ICAIC insisted on a “clarifying note” that “independent audiovisual and cinematographic creators are not self-employed, but rather carry out their activity from their status as artists, recognized as a way of non-state management in the aforementioned Decree Law 373″.
However, three filmmakers who spoke with 14ymedio this Friday, consider that it is the combination of that decree with the new restrictions that puts their work in check.
One of them is José Luis Aparicio, who recalls that Decree Law 373 meant the creation of the Registry of the Audiovisual and Cinematographic Creator (Recac), the result of “a request that filmmakers have been making for years, especially those grouped in the G-20”, to gain access to possibilities that they did not have before.
Aparicio acknowledges that this came to grant “a legality to filmmakers so that they can carry out operations that were previously impossible or very complicated” and that they could, consequently, “produce in a more industrial, more conventional way” and “access funds, permits, export and import possibilities, all kinds of procedures”.
However, he sees as a problem that there are filmmakers who, for different reasons are not interested in being in that register, “because above all they believe in a more radical and underground type of independent cinema”, not because of the themes and the way in which that they count them, but in principle, because “they believe that belonging to a state norm that regulates independent creators already goes against the independent concept.”
He cites filmmakers Jorge Molina and Miguel Coyula as examples, who, by their own decision, do not belong to RECAC but “have an occupation that supports them”.
With the new provisions, says Aparicio, artists like Molina or Coyula “are now left in a punishable situation, of lawlessness”
With the new provisions, Aparicio thinks, artists like Molina or Coyula “are now in a punishable illegal situation”. Before, he explains, their situation was “in a certain way, allegorical and ambiguous” because, without having a link to the institution, “they continued to work as independent filmmakers, like they have done all their lives, in a non-specific way, filming without permits, the guerrilla way”.
“This is a very worrying situation for them and all the colleagues who have an interest for them to continue to make films and not receive any type of punishment for making their films”, says Aparicio, director of such films as Sueños al Pairo.
In addition, he continues, the new scenario also leaves “very badly off” those who are not traditionally filmmakers and do not have curriculum works to meet the requirements dictated by the institution or have not studied in film schools.
In any case, Aparicio reflects, “in all parts of the world” and at all times”, independent cinema has been created beyond legal provisions, decrees, license, political pressure, filming permits or specific conditions. “It has always been done at the snap of a finger, at the stroke of passion. To not identify that, in the case of cinema and art in general, is blindness on the part of the government when it comes to dealing with culture and art”.
Director Víctor Alfonso, an architect by profession, calls attention to another aspect of the problem, a question that has to do with logic: “How do you register if you don’t have work? At least three works are needed to be able to belong to the audiovisual creator’s registry. This is a paradox. How do you manage to have three quality works if you cannot film legally? That is the big question, but I honestly think that there will not be many changes, people will continue filming and nothing will happen “.
Director Víctor Alfonso, an architect by profession, points to another aspect of the problem, a question that has to do with logic: “How do you register if you don’t have any work lined up?
“They’re going to use that to hit the names they already have marked,” he asserts.” For example, Iliana Hernández, who goes out to film in the street tomorrow, falls under this pretext. The issue of independent journalists comes into play there too”.
Mijail Rodríguez, scriptwriter and organizer of the ICAIC Youth Show for several years, is of the opinion that Decree Law 373 “was a half-achievement” of the filmmakers after much battle with the institution. “The result does not include all the demands of that struggle that the G20 and the Assembly of Filmmakers led. Hence, many do not feel identified with [Decree] 373.”
“The problem is that now, by prohibiting audiovisual and cinematographic activity as self-employed workers, in some way it declares illegal any activity that is not endorsed by the institution, which is aggravated by Decree 349 (which regulates artistic diffusion in Cuba) that is still active, “says Rodríguez. The Ministry of Culture intends to “save” the artists through Decree Law 373 or the RECAC, but all this, Rodríguez concludes, “is used very conveniently… In the end, everything works as a control mechanism.”
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Translated by Norma Whiting